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Book Reviews: Dean R. Koontz and John Leslie

| Aug 12, 2019
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Elizabeth Parker wrote book reviews for TGForum back in the ‘90s. While some of the books she covered are no longer in print and in some cases contain dated characterizations of trans people it’s interesting to see which tales still hold up. Today we dig into the Archives and rejuvenate Elizabeth Parker’s reviews of a book by Dean R. Koontz, a M.A.S.H. influenced work but the crossdressing nurse is much prettier than Klinger, and a murder mystery by John Leslie.


What’s that you say? Dean R. Koontz writing transgender scenes? Don’t get too excited. The best-selling author of horror fiction has not written a lot of transgender fare. The only one I’ve found previously documented was “The Bad Place,” whose villain is a hermaphrodite. I didn’t find that book particularly exciting from a TG perspective. However I’ve long been aware of an early Koontz book, which I read long before he tried his hand at mainstream horror.

That book is “Hanging On”, a fairly obvious MASH rip-off. Check out the cover. The premise is that in World War II, a group of Army engineers were parachuted behind enemy lines in France and ordered to keep a bridge open at all costs so that the Allies could use it in the retaking of Europe. The Luftwaffe, anxious to prevent the Allies from using the bridge, bombs it day-after-day. So the engineers, led by Major Kelly, have to keep rebuilding the bridge. Being under fire every day and having to perform a Sisyphean task as well, builds up the tension in each man’s mind. The book is about how they deal with that tension.

Major Kelly himself is having an affair with Lily, a stripper the USO left behind. Lieutenant Slade disagrees with Major Kelly’s commands, and decides to assassinate his commanding officer. Sgt. Hagendorf, deciding to save a few steps, climbs into a coffin and refuses to come out, declaring himself already dead. And Private Pullit decides to become a nurse.

Being the Army of the WWII era, Pullit is male. He shows up for duty in a mysteriously obtained nurses uniform, with legs shaved and face powered. At first the men bolt for the door, even the seriously injured ones. But Nurse Pullit proves to be an adept and caring nurse, and the men soon appreciate “her” care. Apparently Pullit makes a somewhat pretty woman as Major Kelly has trouble remembering his sex.

He followed Nurse Pullit to the hospital bunker, across the dried grass and dusty clearing, staying ten paces behind where he could admire the excellent slimness of the nurse’s legs. The white pumps had done well by those legs. All that could improve on them now was a pair of stockings. Perhaps he could bribe the pilot of the supply plane and have some nylons flown in for the nurse. Pullit would appreciate…

He suddenly remembered who Nurse Pullit was: Private Pullit. He decided that, if in a moment of weakness he ever ordered and received those nylons, the best thing to do would be to use a pair of them to strangle himself.”

If that isn’t enough, later one of the injured men, Vito Angelli, falls in love with the pretty nurse. The nurse, clearly overcome by his assumed role (both men are presented ultimately as heterosexuals), encourages Angelli’s advances. They neck, hold hands, and are discovered with Angelli trying to remove the nurses’ bra. When the Major attempts to discourage Angelli, the erstwhile suitor ignores attempts to tell him Pullit is a man.

This is a fun book, full of great laughs. Some of Major Kelly’s love scenes with Lily are very amusing, and the occasional passage featuring Nurse Pullit completes a great book.

Hangin’ On is out of print but you can find it in hardback and paperback on Amazon and eBay.


The next book is a bit more recent. It is “Killer in Paradise,” by John Leslie. It is a book about a serial killer, but believe it or not, the crossdressing doesn’t come into play when the killer dons drag. Instead the killer is murdering runaway girls in Key West, and murders a pretty transvestite by accident. The transvestite gets more attention in this book than the other victims because he turns out to be the son of the police chief.

The son, Rafe, has become an embarrassment to his father. Understandably drawn to his female alter-ego, he spends more and more time wandering the streets dressed as a girl. The killer spots him, and mistakes his narcissistic actions for those of a hustler (a lesson here). The public making up, the exaggerated female walk, are all mistaken for the actions of a prostitute, a hot spot for this villain.

I do recommend this book if you can get it. It is out of print, but I see it all the time in used book stores. It’s a pretty good mystery read, and the discussions the police chief and his wife have about the son’s problems are very realistic. The chief struggles understandably with what he considers his son’s problem, yet loves him enough to want to help him in spite of the public embarrassment.

Killer in Paradise is available from Amazon in Kindle format and hardcover.


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